May 28, 2004
United Press International
Yale University researchers and others have identified molecules that underlie nerve fiber degeneration in patients with multiple sclerosis.
MS is a disease that cripples nearly 3 million people worldwide. The new findings are the first observations in humans of molecules that contribute to degeneration of nerve fibers.
The researchers, at Yale, the U.S. Veterans Administration and University College London, examined postmortem spinal cord tissue from patients with a progressive form of MS. Using biomarkers of the damaged nerve fibers, they looked for molecular abnormalities and found a strong link between nerve damage and the presence of two molecules, called Nav. 1.6 and NCX.
Located on the surface of most nerve fibers, Nav.1.6 controls the flow of sodium into the cell, which in turn triggers the activation of NCX, a molecule that, if unchecked, imports abnormal levels of calcium into the nerve fiber that ultimately lead to its death.
"These results are extremely exciting because they provide, for the
first time, important clues about the molecular basis for permanent and
irreversible damage in MS," said lead researcher Stephen Waxman. "We hope
to use these results to design new therapies that will protect vulnerable
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